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Trip Report: Christmas Markets in and around Stuttgart

The last couple of years, a friend and I have made a short December trip to the German-speaking world for Christmas markets. In 2015 we hit Nuremberg, and in 2016 we hit Salzburg. This year, it was Stuttgart. I changed the dates for the trip (before airfare purchased) due to my favorite German-language band adding a Stuttgart date to its winter tour. We arrived on Saturday Dec 2 and departed early on Wednesday Dec 6.

It was a reasonably-inexpensive trip. Frequent airfare checks resulted in a round trip ticket on Delta from Greenville-Spartanburg (SC) to Stuttgart for $780 (purchased during a 24-hour fare sale in late August). Hotel was €90/night at the Motel One Hauptbahnhof (near the main train station), with that price including the chain’s very good German breakfast buffet. For those who don’t know Motel One, it’s a German chain that provides small, spotless, inexpensive rooms with a stylish flare and is aimed primarily at business travelers. We were very pleased with our stay there. We reserved our rooms sometime in late July/early August.

We hit the big 3 Christmas markets in the area – Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, and Esslingen. We also took a couple of very-reasonably-priced private walking tours with Sarah of Stuttgart Steps – one covered Stuttgart’s city center and the other covered Esslingen. We were pleased with the tours.

Daily overviews…

Saturday, Dec 2 – We arrived in Stuttgart at about 9 am and were at the hotel dropping off luggage by 10 am. We wandered the Stuttgart Christmas market for a bit before meeting up with Sarah for our 2-hour tour of the Stuttgart city center. The sprawling Stuttgart market has a big city feel that is enhanced by the modern buildings and sleek shopping district that surrounds it. It was starting to get busy by noon; when we returned to the market that evening at around 7 pm, the crowd made for very slow movement, but it was the first weekend of the market. Jet-lagged, we decide to head back to the hotel, grab a hot chocolate in the lobby, and go to bed early. Dinner was at Dilgelay, an excellent kebab joint within walking distance of the city center that makes a great Döner, including a very good vegetarian offering for my vegetarian friend.

Sunday, December 3 – We slept late, ate a late breakfast at the hotel, and then headed out to Ludwigsburg. The Christmas market was a short walk from the train station and had more of a smalltown feel. It’s described as a Baroque market, playing off the Baroque palace in town. Snow (along with a street band playing “Let It Snow” at the perimeter of the market) made the Christmas mood complete here. It was a great day. We stayed until dark (which was about 5 pm) and then headed back to the Stuttgart market, where the snow continued and the ambiance was lovely. We ate dinner in the Stuttgart market – the Schupfnudeln (think gnocchi with sauerkraut and bacon/ham mixed in) was surprisingly wonderful.

Monday, December 4 – We spent a little more time at the Stuttgart market and then headed to the Stuttgart Stadtbibliothek (library), a modern, 8-story building that is white by day but glows red and blue at night. The inside was worth seeing – it’s the whitest library ever! Sadly, the roof terrace was closed. Dinner was at Lausterer, a small restaurant in the city center with great ambience, a server who did not speak English, and a lot of German customers, but pretty marginal food. I watched my Maultaschen get microwaved, along with my dessert. Monday night was also concert night. (Continued below)

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The band – a group of 20-somethings from Austria called Tagtraeumer – sings only in German and gave a great performance at Keller Klub, a small music venue which includes a giant rotating disco ball in the shape of a skull. The venue was so small the band had to cut through the audience to get to the stage, so there was nowhere to go to wait to be called back to the stage for an encore. So, near the end of the show they said (loosely translated), “This is where we usually say, ‘This is the last song;’ walk off the stage; wait for you to cheer; and then walk back out to play 2 or 3 more songs. There’s nowhere for us to go! So, we’ll act like we’re walking off stage, you cheer, and we’ll play 2 or 3 more songs.” They played the “last song,” did the “guy pretending to walk down steps” bit, laid on the ground of the stage, and then jumped back up to play the encore. Oh, to be youthfully clever again!

Tuesday, December 5 – The final full day was spent in Esslingen, which worked out great. This gem of a town, 15 minutes from the Stuttgart main train station, has a city center that was largely spared from Allied bombs during WWII. The town is full of gorgeous buildings and has a wonderful medieval feel about it. Thus, it’s the perfect setting for a Christmas market that is paired with a medieval market, both of which the town pulls off very, very well. A short hike up to the old city fortifications on the ridge above the town provided a great view of the holiday festivities below. This was easily our favorite of the markets.

Wednesday, December 6 – We got up early to start the return to the US.

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2547 posts

When you started off saying it was a short trip, you weren't kidding. But what a lovely trip it was. I never thought to do a long weekend for the markets and will put this in the back of my mind for next year. Thanks for the report.

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7718 posts

Every time someone mentions the Christmas market at Esslingen, it really sounds appealing. Nice report and indeed, you've made me want to go there!

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4785 posts

Dave,

It sure sounds like you had a lovely trip visiting the Christmas markets, thanks for sharing!

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2156 posts

Dave,
Wonderful trip report! Thanks for sharing. I've always wanted to do the Christmas markets in Germany. Did you get from place to place by train? Was there snow and ice?

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1127 posts

Nice report. Nice to be on the East Coast. Your cost for this is more in line with a 3 night trip to Las Vegas for me.

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34 posts

Loved the Stuttgart Christmas market. Was there dec '15 for that and the Porsche museum/factory tour.

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3083 posts

Thanks, all, for the kind comments.

@Kim... the medieval and Christmas markets at Esslingen are indeed extraordinary. The town, as well as its markets, are worth a trip!

@Judy B... I did everything by train. The local transit authority has a nice app (VVS app) for smart phones that can be used to figure out routes and to purchase tickets, including to Esslingen and to Ludwigsburg. Happily, we had snow, but no ice.

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961 posts

What a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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8186 posts

Great trip report. I too really enjoyed the Stuttgart and Esslingen markets. They are 2 of my favorites and I have been to a LOT of markets. Would like to see Rick devote a bit of time visiting these 2 cities as they deserve more attention.
How did you like your walking tour with Sarah?

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@Ms Jo -- Sarah gave us two very good tours. She told me that you encouraged her to get into the guide business.